The Seattle Seahawks had one of their primary training camp concerns alleviated when wide receiver Bobby Engram said he will report to camp on time rather than hold out, as he had been threatening. Engram, 35, who had a record-setting season last year, sat out two offseason minicamps because he wanted to have a contract extension that would allow him to retire as a Seahawk.
From Engram's point of view, he was paid only $1.7 million last season -- half of what Deion Branch and Nate Burleson were earning -- but had 94 receptions for 1,147 yards, both career best and franchise records.
Coming into the 2008 season, Engram's salary cap charge stands at $2.14 million, with Burleson's at $4.05 million and Branch's at $6.76 million.
Engram didn't want his contract restructured as much as he wanted an extension to give him some security as he heads into the twilight of his career. From the Seahawks' perspective, they rewarded Engram with a multi-year contract after 2006 even after he missed half the season with a thyroid condition. They have said that they will be willing to discuss an extension, but only after this season.
Engram threatened to hold out of training camp to further his point, but recently said he would report on time. "I'll be ready to go," Engram told the Seattle Times. "I'm going to be me. I'm going to be ready to work hard, because I don't hold any bitterness. I'm not going to be upset about something that didn't happen. Everybody has to handle his business individually, but I realize nobody is bigger than the team."
It is a big relief for the Seahawks because Engram actually had some leverage. Branch is out with an injury. Burleson is unproven as a top receiver. And everyone else on the roster is young and inexperienced. The Seahawks desperately need their veteran to have a solid season.
Had he not been there for training camp, it would have put the team in a bind. As it is, the team now has him in a position where he has to perform to be rewarded with a fresh contract.
CAMP CALENDAR: Camp opens July 25 in Kirkland, closes Aug. 21. Intrasquad scrimmage at Qwest Field on Aug. 2. Teams moves to its new facility in Renton on Aug. 17.
--The Seahawks still have to sign their top two draft picks to contracts before training camp. Lawrence Jackson and John Carlsonall still are negotiating deals, while Tyler Schmitt, Brandon Coutu Justin Forsett, Red Bryant and Owen Schmitt all have either signed or agreed to terms on their contracts.
--The Seahawks announced they will hold their first intra-squad scrimmage on Aug. 2 at Qwest Field. It is a departure from last training camp, when they held their scrimmage at Memorial Stadium in downtown Seattle to capacity crowds.
--The Seahawks reconfigured their front office a bit, adding Matt Berry, who previously worked for the Falcons, to serve as their southwest area scout. Ed Dodds will move from pro personnel assistant to Midwest area scout, while Eric Stokes -- who previously held Dodds' position -- will now be the West Coast scout. Mike Phair, the team's previous West Coast scout, will be on the defensive coaching staff this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you really limit passing yards and offer run support, instead of giving up 200 yards passing and maybe you don't allow a touchdown and maybe you had a pick, what if you limit them to 110 or 120? We really want to clamp down and be good across the board." -- Seahawks free safety Brian Russell on the team's secondary, which returns everybody healthy for the second consecutive season.
Players to Watch in Training Camp
Running back Julius Jones: The Seahawks have high hopes that Jones can be the viable replacement for 2005 MVP Shaun Alexander, who was released this offseason, but there certainly are some questions still lingering about the former Dallas Cowboys starter. Foremost, he never has averaged more than 4.2 yards a carry in his career, and there is a reason that he lost his job to Marion Barber as the Cowboys' featured runner and was allowed to walk away in free agency. He had the reputation as a soft runner in Dallas, ironic since that was the label stuck to Alexander during his time in Seattle, which led to catcalls from boo birds his final season. Still, Jones will certainly hit the hole harder than Alexander, and regardless of his overall success will be a nice change of pace from the albatross that Alexander had become. He is much quicker and seems to be rejuvenated with a fresh start in a new city and has an offensive line that is being reconfigured under a new coach.
Wide receiver Nate Burleson: With D.J. Hackett leaving in free agency and Deion Branch out probably half the year with a knee injury, Burleson becomes Matt Hasselbeck's primary big-play receiver. It is a scary position for the Seahawks to be in, at least in the sense that Burleson has not proven that he can be the top guy. Burleson points to the fact that he had nine touchdown receptions last year (as the third or fourth receiver) and has shown the ability to make explosive plays that break open games. He had a disappointing first year with the Seahawks after signing a $49 million contract but had an injured thumb that he never told anybody about. Last year was more what the Seahawks had in mind, but he also displayed inconsistency that a few times led to interceptions by Hasselbeck and raises concerns. Still, with Bobby Engram responsible for possession receptions underneath and no other receiver possessing experience, the Seahawks have no choice but to rely on Burleson for his vertical abilities. He likely will have his return duties curtailed because of the additional responsibilities on offense.
Defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs: When the Seahawks made Tubbs their first-round pick in 2004, they had big expectations for the 320-pounder from Texas adept at stopping the run. However, his career has been besieged by injuries, to the point that he is at a make-or-break point in his career after two straight seasons of knee surgeries on opposite knees. The Seahawks, as they say, are prepared for the worst and hoping for the best, which would be Tubbs coming off the bench in a rotation that includes Rocky Bernard, Brandon Mebane, Craig Terrill and rookie Red Bryant. The Seahawks are significantly better against the run when Tubbs is on the field, and at times that has been a weak point in their defense in recent years with him missing. But they can ill afford to keep hoping he will stay healthy. He either needs to produce this season or the team will cut ties with him.